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The 2016 Barnes and Noble Death Spiral

October 16, 2015 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random  0 Comments

Barnes and Noble is closing their flagship Washington D.C. store in December.

Borders was the herald of the mega-bookstore apocalypse and everything after it is simply the end-game, including the inevitable B&N death spiral.

Borders and their other chain stores used to be the place you can go where you had local people buying and selling books of regional interest and popularity. At that one magical moment in time, they were just the right size with all the wonderful books. I could browse for hours and frequently spent $100 or more.

That gradually changed when the older bookworms were all fired because they cost too much and replaced by hippsters who would look at you funny if you asked for help. If you could find one to ask for help. Soon the store was stocked with books that didn’t mean anything to the people who used to shop there. Then they added DVDs just when digital distribution of movies started to take off (dudes, really?) and toys. Toys.

While the staff at the local B&N is actually friendly and bookish, Amazon remains a very reader-centric place to buy books. Barnes and Noble is not. They have a horrid frequent-buyer’s discount card that cost money and while they are less prone to the Borders centralized stock list, the B&N’s around here don’t stock and display their wears like the indie bookstores with their reader-centric focus on book clubs and regional best-sellers list.

And the problems with their customer service, especially with the Nook, is legion.

B&N can’t compete with Amazon’s “buy any book you can find and you can find anything.” They can’t compete with prices, and they can’t compete with the indie bookstores and their personalized customer service. It is just a matter of time, and if I was a landlord I would boot B&N out of my space as soon as their lease was up, too, because at some point they won’t be able to pay the rent.

It’s not just the landlords who need to plan ahead. If anybody has a business model that relies on B&N, now is the time to really start planning an exit strategy.

This is all very sad. And predictable.